Kids Corner: The Giver by Lois Lowry

A Measured, Economical Glimpse at “Utopia”

GiverThe Giver
by Lois Lowry

Series: The Giver Quartet (Book 1)
Publication Date (Reissue): September 25, 2012
Original Publication Date: April 1, 1993
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Length: 225 pp
ISBN-13: 978-0-54-799566-3


Awards: Newbery Medal, 1994

Related Links:
Lois Lowry’s Biography
A Video Interview with Lois Lowry

 


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 Publisher Synopsis

Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
 

My Review

Before The Hunger Games  and the myriad dystopian novels that have saturated the YA market of late, there was Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Since I hadn’t read it and many reviews of other similarly themed novels reference it, and since it was a Newbery winner, The Giver made my summer reading shortlist.

Similar to Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World, though written for a younger audience, The Giver presents a future utopian society. Unlike much of today’s works for youth and young adult audiences, Lowry’s novel isn’t unnecessarily lengthy. Lowry has a gift for economy, presenting the important details of her futuristic world in a fashion that serves her storyline well and reveals information in a natural, comfortable progression without ever needing to resort to info dumping. She’s a master of showing rather than telling.

The opening chapters are engaging and seductive, in that it gently sweeps you into this place where families gather round the dinner table and talk out their troubles. You are taken so unaware that it’s not until later that you begin to see something deceptive and dangerous is lurking beneath the surface. This community isn’t as honestly happy as it would appear. We come to see the truth bit by bit with our protagonist, as Jonas’ eyes are literally opened to the truths behind the workings of his society.

Themes center around individuality, freedom, choice, and the function and importance of memory and pain. Mature and difficult topics are covered that stir up controversy among some conservative folks, so the novel has been widely challenged for years. Given these issues and the novel’s ending, which is somewhat open to interpretation, Lowry’s work generates thoughtful discussion and dialogue. In this sense, The Giver is an crowning achievement.

That said, I was a little underwhelmed for two reasons. Lowry herself states that the novel was not designed to be science fiction, though it’s often categorized as such. Herein lies one of the work’s weaknesses. While I can’t elaborate without spoilers, there are some gaps in the “science” behind the engineering of this society, questions that are never satisfactorily addressed or answered. My other qualm is that Lowry so carefully presents this community devoid of strong emotion that her narrative voice feels a touch distant and tempered, robbing the tale of its full emotional punch.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 Hearts - Final

4 of 5 Hearts. A Measured, Economical Glimpse at “Utopia.”

The Giver succeeds in presenting failed Utopia in a compellingly taut narrative. But ultimately, some of the book’s flaws dilute its emotional impact and undermine its reality, causing it to fall short of tremendous. However, as this is the first part of a quartet, I will reserve final judgment.

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7 thoughts on “Kids Corner: The Giver by Lois Lowry

  1. Alana Mautone (@RamblinGarden) July 2, 2014 at 9:51 PM Reply

    I read The Giver some 10 years ago and fell in love with it. I enjoy dystopian literature (although I couldn’t finish the Divergent book now made into a movie). I thought the ending was one of the best endings I have ever read. It wasn’t until recently that I found out there were additional books set in this world – and I am hoping (I really don’t want to know, truthfully) there is no true sequel. The ending left so much to the imagination (no spoilers here) that i really don’t want to know what happened next.

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  2. Dawn Teresa July 2, 2014 at 9:58 PM Reply

    Thanks for sharing, Alana. I believe each of the remaining books in the quartet serves more as a companions than a sequel. I will probably read the next and go from there. No real plans on seeing the upcoming movie adaptation.

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  3. Suzie Cheel July 2, 2014 at 10:12 PM Reply

    I like the beginning of the synopsis, so much for Utopia 🙂 I have not heard of this series but might get it for my niece

    Like

  4. Michellette "Mimi" Green July 2, 2014 at 10:14 PM Reply

    I’ve not read this book but I know many people that have. Its on my book bucket list along with several other books. Its the type of book you mention in a crowd and majority of the folks have read it and loved it. I will bump it up on my list.

    http://www.mimicutelips.com

    Like

  5. Dawn Teresa July 2, 2014 at 10:16 PM Reply

    Suzie and Mimi, thanks for stopping by!

    Like

  6. drowsymama July 3, 2014 at 10:46 AM Reply

    I recently listened to this as an audiobook. I made the mistake of listening to a very intense scene, the one where the father releases the baby, while I was attempting to apply makeup. It made me cry so hard I had to stop listening, take a break to gather my composure and try again to get ready to leave. I love this entire series but was unable to listen to Son because one chapter in it was just too triggering as a birth activist. Perhaps in the future….

    Like

    • Dawn Teresa July 3, 2014 at 6:38 PM Reply

      I always say that it’s a sign something is good art if such emotional responses are triggered! Thank you for sharing your personal moment. Sounds like you could write your own blog post about the experience.

      Like

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